Whats the best way to maintain steady temp using charcoal?
I have a new smoker and I'm new to smoking so I want to understand whats the best way to maintain steady temp using charcoal.
The one that has the biggest overall long term effect are the draft vents top and bottom because these control the flow of oxygen to the fire.
Open the vents, air flow will increase, your fire will get hotter in turn cause air flow to increase etc etc. You can see that it has an amplifying effect so turn it up too much and you'll have a significant fluctuations in temperature.
The secret is to be subtle with your adjustments, don't go from nearly closed to fully open in one movement, make changes increment by increment over a period of minutes and leave time between each change so that you can see the effect.
I find that the bottom vent is much more heavy handed and the top vent is more for fine tuning. Once you've found the temperature that you're looking for, make a note of the positioning of the draft vents then next tie you can open everything to get things moving and then return to your noted positions and things will settle down nicely.
One other point to make in set up is with the water bath (if using one) because if you fill it with cold water there's a significant energy drain from your fire to get the water up to temperature - better to use hot water from a kettle.
Note also that when your water bath is up to temperature that this will act as a heat store and so moderate the impact of a dying fire.
Finally, temperature fluctuations are difficult to control when tending the fire during a long cook out. Eventually your fire will start to die and you'll need to add new coals and during this process you will inevitably have a temperature fluctuation but you can minimize this buy using a charcoal chimney burner
Not only will this help you maintain constant temperature it also ensures that you don't put unlit coals on half way through a cookout. Unlit coals will give off a lot of smoke and particulates as they start to combust and this will taint the color and flavor of your food.
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